Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

How the Current Draft of RDA Addresses the Cataloging of Reproductions, Facsimiles, and Microforms

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

How the Current Draft of RDA Addresses the Cataloging of Reproductions, Facsimiles, and Microforms

Article excerpt

The cataloging of microforms and other reproductions has been difficult throughout the history of cataloging codes, particularly due to the "multiple versions problem." The proposed new cataloging code, Resource Description and Access (RDA), seeks to clarify the relationship between reproductions and originals by applying the principles of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) to cataloging. While the use of FRBR principles does help to identify the relationships between works in the catalog, RDA as currently designed is challenging for the cataloger and includes many data that may prove to be difficult for catalog users to understand.


The conceptual and practical aspects of cataloging microform reproductions and other types of reproductions have long been a challenging part of bibliographic control. Under the proposed new cataloging code, Resource Description and Access (RDA), catalogers will have to expand on current cataloging practices. The thinking that motivates the most innovative sections of RDA is concerned with defining the relationships between items in the collection, and microforms and other reproductions fall into an interesting grey area--they are neither a different edition in the usual sense, nor are they simply an extra copy of an extant edition. The potential relationships between library holdings are detailed in a document titled Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). (1)

RDA, in its current draft form, is a bulky document that may be difficult for catalogers to consult with confidence that they are applying all the necessary rules for the item in hand. (2) However, a catalog entry created according to RDA will provide deeper information about the item and its relationship to other bibliographic entities than do catalog entries created using Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2). (3) But some aspects of RDA, such as the use of library or publishing jargon, mean that catalogs created using RDA may present the data in a way that is less meaningful to catalog users than it might have been using other cataloging rules.

This paper will outline the ways in which RDA approaches reproductions, beginning with a brief historical exploration showing how the problem of defining reproductions in relation to their originals has proven elusive through all the cataloging codes of the twentieth century. This paper also includes a discussion of FRBR principles as they apply to reproductions.

The Historical Problem of Defining the Relationship between Reproductions and Originals

A persistent difficulty for catalogers has been conveying to patrons the fact that a publication may appear in the collection in several versions; originally these took the form of various editions, but alternative formats of the same edition are now also an issue for catalogers. This issue was addressed in two of Charles A. Cutter's famous "Objects of the Library Catalog," namely, a catalog should show what a library has by a given author, and a catalog should assist in the choice of a book's edition. (4) Cutter felt that the means to achieve these objectives were title entries and notes, when necessary. For the most part, Cutter's view has prevailed since that time, as shown by the Statement of Principles, known as the Paris Principles, of 1961, which established an international standard for cataloging rules. (5)

Cataloging of Reproductions in Earlier Codes

Microforms were not a practical commercial enterprise during the nineteenth century, although pioneers such as John Benjamin Dancer had created prototypes of microfilmed documents. (6) However, the development of lithography allowed for the production of facsimiles. (7) In a famous example, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams authorized a wet-ink transfer of the original engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence so that the original could be copied for wide distribution in 1823; the removal of some of the ink accounts for the current faintness of the original document. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.